Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo not only saw his budget veto overridden by the legislature, but had to suffer further criticism from former Rules Committee Chairman Michael San Nicolas, who said his vote against overriding the veto in no way meant that he supported the governor's budget reasoning.
In the Saturday afternoon session called by Speaker B.J. Cruz to address the veto, Cruz urged votes for the override, which was hardly unexpected, given that the original bill passed by a 12-3 vote. Cruz has argued at great length, before and after the veto, that the budget bill was 'conservative,' given its lower projection of revenue than that projected by the governor. Cruz urged support for the override.
"I assure all of you that if or when there is a windfall of cash, I will be the first one to call us back into session to appropriate that money out. But until that money is in the coffers. we cannot, cannot appropriate it. And so I'm asking all of you to join me in voting for the override, so that we can keep the budget we have crafted together."
Republican Senator Jimmy Espaldon expressed some reluctance but backed the apparent legislative consensus.
"I know [the budget amount] was much less than our chief executive, the governor was hoping for and asked for, but again, part of our responsibility is that we do have to live within our means and much like you, I agree, if we do see a windfall of revenue coming into the government, then that might be the time to appropriate it out, but not before then."
But after the vote, Senator San Nicolas made it clear that he wasn't voting no in support of Governor Calvo's budget, but as a general protest against an unrealistic budget process on the part of both the executive and the legislature.
"Statements made earlier about potential [revenue] windfalls for government confound me since our circumstances are anything but what would render a windfall possible," Senator San Nicolas said. "There is no windfall," he added, pointing out that the Department of Education and Guam line agencies already report owing $18 million to vendors. The governor's budgeting process, he said, "has turned a blind eye to realities..Our circumstances were already dire and that's before North Korea fired another missile. The statements from the Visitors Bureau about how this is going to affect our tourism are only going to add fuel to a fire that is already burning.
"And I worry that somehow, we're able to pull through in the way that we have been, what's going to happen next fiscal year. It has only been through the extension of vendor payments, the delay of refund payments, the incurring of more debt every year, that we've been able to kite things along under the guise of what is the status quo, but we are already in a very bad place.You cannot just add ones and zeroes into a budget if the money's not there."
Following the veto override, Governor Calvo's office in Adelup issued a news release, containing his immediate reaction:
“I cannot hide my deep disappointment in the senators’ decision, but we’re now past how I feel about this, and it's time to move forward,” Governor Calvo said. “The Legislature has spoken, and it’s my duty to respect and carry out the law. This Administration will continue to fight the good fight. We will work to make sure our people are taken care of, even if the budget makes it harder to do so."
Only four senators fought alongside the Governor for the people -- Sens. Wil Castro, Frank Aguon Jr., Telena Nelson and Mike San Nicolas.
"I commend these senators for seeing what the others failed to, that our priority has and always will be our people," the Governor said.
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